Friday, June 14, 2002


For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be part of a movement. The concept of a group of like-minded individuals banding together to do something revolutionary penetrates me to the core and radiates throughout my being. I want to do something original. I want to be on the edge. I want to be where there’s a groundswell of energy. I want to be a part of something that I’m proud of. I want to participate in changing the world.

This desire was recently reawakened by a documentary entitled "Dogtown and Z-Boys". The film chronicles the acrobatic antics of a group of surfers from Santa Monica and Venice in the mid-70s who combined to redefine the sport of skateboarding. In the wake of a crumbling seaside amusement park, they carved out their territory and dubbed it Dogtown. Armed with skateboards using polyurethane wheels instead of antiquated clay wheels, these athletically gifted kids, aged thirteen to eighteen, mainly from broken homes and lower middle class families, transposed Larry Bertleman's surfing style to the pavement. With the guidance of three mentors -- Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, and Craig Stecyk -- who owned and operated the Santa Monica-based Zephyr Surf Shop, these daredevils took the skateboarding world by storm. In preparation for a skateboarding competition called the Del-Mar Nationals, the owners of the Zephyr Surf Shop formed a team comprised of the Z-Boys. Bob Biniak, a former Z-Boy described their appearance at the competition as such: “It was like a hockey team going to a figure skating contest.” Craig Stecyk published a series of articles in Skateboarder magazine, chronicling the radical exploits of the Z-Boys, and turned them into cult heroes. The group had all the requisite characters for a movement: superstars in Tony Alva and Stacey Piralta (the director of “Dogtown”), a phenom in thirteen year-old Jay Adams, and one balls-out girl in Peggy Oki. Their revolutionary skateboard movement solidified during the drought of 1976 and 1977. In guerilla fashion, the group began seeking out neighborhood swimming pools that had been drained out from the lack of available water. More often than not, the cops would eventually catch wind of these skating sessions and bust them up. The Z-Boys became so serious about their quest to find new pools to ride that they took along their own pool pumps to drain the remaining water from an otherwise-usable skating surface. Their search for the perfect skate venue ended when a dying rich kid convinced his father to drain their pool so he could watch the Z-Boys carve it up. The pool became known as “The Dogbowl,” and it was here where the movement crested. During one momentous Dogbowl session, Tony Alva defied gravity by flying over the lip of the pool, turning around in the air, and landing his board back on the side wall. In the process, Alva completed the first frontside air and forever changed the sport. One has to look only as far as the half-pipe snowboarding competition at the Winter Olympics to see evidence of the tremendous impact the Z-Boys continue to have on sport and culture.

The Renaissance, The Beat Poets, The Hippies, Your Show of Shows, Saturday Night Live, The Impressionists, The Surrealists, The French New Wave, Independent Film, Grunge, Rap and Hip Hip… I simply love movements. When I recently communicated this to a wise friend of mine, she told me to remember that “money follows movements.” Just about all of the groups listed above eventually encountered some type of commercialization which diluted its initial intent. The most blatant example is the Internet. When it first started to blossom, I recall someone playfully referring to The Net as “the world’s largest magazine rack.” There was something about it that felt like a movement. Democracy and freedom of speech were at play in cyberspace. But, all too quickly, money not only followed that movement, but overwhelmed and drowned it like a tsunami.

I was working in sitcoms during the Internet Bubble and, for a spell, I had this unnerving feeling that I was missing out. A movement was passing me by. Of course, now that we find ourselves on the other side of the phenomenon, I’ve finally made it to the party. And I must say, better late than never, because I’m having a great time. It’s made me realize that I don’t have to wait to find a movement to be a part of, I can be my own movement.

No comments: